News | 24/10/18

Plans for Littlewoods Studios on track as new images released

New images of the future of the former Littlewoods building have been released by regeneration specialists CAPITAL&CENTRIC.

The artist’s impressions have been revealed to celebrate the chorus of support from city leaders, senior industry figures and Government.

They show the design-led work spaces where tenants will collaborate, as well as the central food and drink hall that will sit in between the building’s two wings. With new studio space and a cluster of film and TV-related industries, many have dubbed the scheme the ‘Hollywood of the North.’

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said; “We’re talking about bringing the world’s film industry to us. They’re already here for Liverpool’s amazing exterior locations, but Littlewoods will give them a one-stop home for interior filming. The fire in September was a blow, but I’m pleased that this has not impacted the vision for the future of this incredible building.

“We’ve spent years behind the scenes bringing the world’s location scouts and directors here. Now’s the time to shout about it and show the rest of the UK what Liverpool is capable of. What excites me most is how the world’s industry will tap into our talent, our creativity. That’s the next generation of costume designers, set builders, runners and film makers, who could all be drawn from Liverpool and benefit from the productions rolling in.

The momentum behind the project is growing. Leading figures from the British Film Commission and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport visited the site recently to learn more about the scheme.

Luciana Berger MP has also described it as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity for the city’ during her visit, while enquiries from casting agencies, education facilities and production companies have also been received by the developers.

Twickenham Studios, the anchor tenant for Littlewoods and the UK’s oldest film studios, plan a visit to the site in the coming days to further scope out their requirements for the 85,000 sq.ft. they’ve signed up to take.

Their space was untouched by the recent fire, while planning applications for the construction of the new Hollywood-standard sound stages are currently being prepared and are expected to be submitted within the next few months.

It comes as global streaming services ramp up their spend in the UK, with Netflix looking to make around 40 productions in the Britain this year as part of its £6 billion production budget.

This so-called ‘content revolution’, coupled with generous incentives and available talent in the UK, is seeing Britain’s film industry boom.

Andrew Boswell, Commercial Direction at Twickenham Studios, said: “It’s almost a perfect storm for the UK’s film industry – one that Liverpool can absolutely capitalise on. As well as the huge rise in investment in film, the appetite for original content from the streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon is putting what the UK currently has to offer under strain.

“Ask anyone in the industry and they talk about space. At Twickenham we receive enquiries for large scale space – from the UK and international productions – on a weekly basis. Liverpool has all the right ingredients to make Littlewoods Studios the leading site for new TV and film studios in the UK and we can’t wait to be part of that story.”

A recent study by property experts Lambert Smith Hampton estimated a need for up to 1.9 million sq.ft of additional studio space over the next 15 years. It also estimated that the UK had lost out on filming of up to 10 major productions in the last two years due to the lack of available studio space. Other sources claim this figure, when also taking into account serial dramas, is much higher.

Figures from the industry have also spoken out about the pressing need for space, and the heights that Liverpool could be reaching.

Betsan Morrison Evans is a renowned producer, who in the past year has worked on both the BBC’s ‘The City and the City’ and new production ‘War of the Worlds’, both filmed partly in Liverpool. She said:

I know it will be a real game changer for Liverpool. From the wonderfully grand to gritty backstreets, to the beaches and forests within short journeys, Liverpool has some of the best locations in the UK. I can honestly say that in my 30 years in film nothing rivals the variety.

“The position of Littlewoods Studios is excellent, as it’s 10 minutes from the centre. Travel time is money in our business and you need location bases close to where you film. You just cannot get that in London, where it has become expensive to film and hard to get around. Add that to the vibrant bar and restaurant scene and more productions would be here in a heartbeat – but they need a studio!

Owner CAPITAL&CENTRIC remain undeterred following the fire that engulfed a section of the former Littlewoods building in September.

The announcement of Littlewoods Studios in July drew international attention, with Liverpool featuring in the LA Times, Hollywood Reporter and Variety. The regeneration specialist is now in talks with other names to locate there.

Co-founder Tim Heatley said: “Our team was floored by the outpouring of love for our vision from the city and around the world. The building is pretty cavernous and has loads of potential – the fire doesn’t change any of that.

“We’re busy speaking to potential occupiers and planning what the space will look like inside, what finishes we’ll need and how the various spaces will work together. We’re making sure the inside is impressive and beautifully designed, befitting of what is an icon for Liverpool.

“The city has picked itself up from the Channel 4 shortlisting outcome. Truth is, it doesn’t need it. With the global demand for space and the sheer volume of productions coming to the UK, Channel 4 was just a nice-to-have.”

It is expected that the studios will be up and running in 2020.